Great Minds

How To Learn Like Steve Jobs

As the creator of era-defining products like the iMac, iPod and iPhone and one of the most successful CEOs in business history, Steve Jobs attributed much of his success to his insatiable curiosity and hunger to learn. This post will give you three tips you can take away from Jobs to apply to your own learning and life.
Nasos Papadopoulos
"Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful, that's what matters to me." - Steve Jobs


Steve Jobs, the legendary CEO and co-founder of Apple, was one of the leading entrepreneurs and inventors in modern history and the creator of era defining products like the iMac, iPod and iPhone. 


When he died from pancreatic cancer on 5 October 2011, it was the lead item on news channels around the world.

Tributes were left in huge numbers online and leaders from the worlds of politics, business and entertainment mourned his death.

Jobs was a visionary and a true maverick – and he’s definitely someone worth learning from.

Childhood: Electronics Enthusiast and Lone Wolf

Steve Jobs was born on 24 February 1955 and was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs, a blue-collar couple from the Bay Area.

By age 10, Jobs was already fascinated with electronics and had made friends with many of the engineers who lived in his Mountain View neighbourhood.

But while he got on well with engineers, he struggled to make friends with children his own age and his classmates saw him as a "loner."

At 13 Jobs cold-called Bill Hewlett of Hewlett Packard to ask for parts for an electronics project…and this earned him a summer job on the HP assembly line!

Education: College Dropout and Lifelong Learner

Jobs went to Homestead High in Silicon Valley, a school with strong ties to the tech scene, along with his friend Bill Fernandez, a fellow electronics hobbyist.

Fernandez introduced him to another electronics whiz and Homestead High alum Steve Wozniak, who lived across the street from Jobs…and Woz would eventually become Steve's co-founder at Apple.

In 1971, Jobs enrolled at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, an expensive school, which his parents could barely afford.

He dropped out, but continued to attend classes unofficially, sleeping on the floor in friends' rooms and getting free meals at the local Hare Krishna temple.

Business: The Company that Changed the World

In 1976, Wozniak invented the Apple I computer and showed it to Jobs, who immediately suggested that they sell it.

After securing funding, the pair launched the Apple 2 in 1977 - the first consumer product sold by Apple Computer and one of the first successful mass-produced microcomputer products.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

The success of the Macintosh in 1984 marked the sudden rise of the desktop publishing industry, but in 1985, Jobs was forced out of the company after a power struggle with the board.

Jobs would return in 1997 when Apple merged with NeXT, Jobs’ new company, and within a few months of the merger, Jobs became CEO again.

Apple was on the verge of bankruptcy but Jobs revived it, working closely with designer Jonathan Ive to develop a line of products that would change the world.

These are the products many of us now use – the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad - and chances are you’re reading this on one of them now!

 

3 Things You Can Learn from Jobs

Despite his achievements, Jobs certainly polarised opinion.

For some he was a visionary genius - an inventor, innovator and boundary breaker who could sell ideas with unparalleled success.

For others, he was a bully, an agent of consumerism and a plagiarist who stole every good idea he came across without remorse.

Both of these views probably have a grain of truth in them.

But one thing about Jobs is certain - he was a prolific learner.

As the creator of era-defining products and one of the most successful CEOs in history, he attributed much of his success to his curiosity and hunger to learn.

Here are three tips you can take away from Jobs to apply to your own learning and life:

1) Learn What You Love

"If you haven't found it yet keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart you'll know when you find it"


Whatever you say about him, Jobs certainly wasn't someone who spent a lot of time doing or learning things he didn't enjoy.

During his time at Reed College, he spent hours sitting with his friends discussing the meaning of life and devoured books on spirituality and Zen Buddhism.

Jobs would later embark on a backpacking trip around India, which would prove to be a true rite of passage for him.

The point here is not that learning about Zen is the way to become successful.

It's that learning about what you love, not what you think you should learn, or other people tell you to learn, will be the source of your greatest enjoyment.

2) Embrace Novelty And Experiment

"I will only eat leaves picked by virgins in the moonlight"


Jobs was an endless experimenter in all aspects of his life, not just his work.

A self-confessed food faddist, he once told his biographer Walter Isaacson "I will only eat leaves picked by virgins in the moonlight" and spent long periods eating only one food - like apples or carrots.

While I don't encourage you to replicate Jobs' diet experiments, I think it's indicative of his hunger to learn, try new things and experiment, which paid dividends in other areas.

For example, when Jobs dropped out of Reed, he continued to attend classes he enjoyed, including a calligraphy course that ended up inspiring the fonts in the Mac's software.

Jobs could never have known that following his curiosity in this area would be valuable in the future, but without doing so, a crucial element of the Mac would never have materialised.

3) Find Friends To Learn With

"Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea."


From a young age Jobs sought out people who helped him develop his skills and explore his ideas.

At high school he became friends with Bill Fernandez, who would become one of his first employees at Apple, spending days with him discussing life and tech.

Fernandez then introduced Jobs to Steve Wozniak.  Despite some fundamental differences, the two Steves learned a lot from each other and this friendship eventually led to the birth of Apple.

The key is that Jobs was constantly looking for people he could learn from and grow with and this was a crucial part of his creative process throughout his life.

As Jobs realised, friends are one of the best sources of learning any of us have, so it's important to choose them wisely!

Read Like Jobs - 3 of Steve's Favourite Books

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind - Shunryu Suzuki 
A compilation of teachings by a Zen Monk who ran a spiritual centre in Los Altos. Encouraging a move away from intellectualism, Roshi presents the basics of Zen - from the details of posture and breathing to the perception of nonduality - in a way that's clear and understandable. 
 

Autobiography of a Yogi - Paramahansa Yogananda 
Paramahansa Yogananda narrates the inspiring chronicle of his life - from his remarkable childhood encounters with sages during his time in India, to ten years of training in the hermitage of a revered yoga master and the thirty years that he lived and taught in America.

Whole Earth Field Guide 
The Whole Earth Catalog was a publication which Jobs described as "a bible of his generation, like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along." This book presents several texts arranged in nine sections that echo the sections of the Catalog itself. 

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